My Aunt Margie

She wasn’t really my aunt, but rather my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister. But she was always just “Aunt Margie” to us, and she was always our favorite. She died years ago, but we all still remember her. She was there at my christening, dressed to the nines, clowning and laughing. We used to have it on super-eight, now it's on VHS. Someday it will be solid state, I suppose.

I remember her when I was a teenager and she was getting on a bit, the time my overly transgressive cousin waved a copy of Playgirl magazine at her. “So whatcha’ think, Aunt Margie? See anything you like?”

“Oh!” she huffed, in tones of outrage. “Put that dirty thing away!” She then added, quite sweetly as I recall, “I don’t like those old, limp things…I like em’ like this!” Whereupon she raised her clenched fist in the air, and pumped her forearm up and down. Like I said, she was always our favorite.

It was memory that reminded me of her. My Aunt Margie died with a severe case of Alzheimer’s. In the beginning she tried to skirt around it, tried to be cheerful about it. "If I should happen to run off the rails while I’m talking, I’d take it as a personal favor if you just let it slide, okay? It’ll be easier all around.” So we did.

Eventually, of course, she couldn’t kid about it anymore. She had to give up driving herself to the market. Then she had to give up walking to the market. She could no longer find her way home. So she stayed in her room and watched television, till she couldn’t do that anymore either. None of the shows made sense to her. Before the shows were half over she’d forgotten how they had started. So she just lay there, looking at the ceiling. When the end finally came, she wasn’t there at all.

And, you know what? Watching her “wither” contributed nothing toward my “full flourishing”. I had grown up and made a life for myself just fine, thank you. If she were still alive today, it would diminish me not at all. Not a penny’s worth.

So what was it, again, that reminded me of her? Just this. Not the final answer perhaps, but at least another step on the way. Surely this is an unalloyed good? I truly believe so.

One last memory of her, one of my favorites. When I was ten, I spent the night in her cabin. She lived up in Topanga canyon back then, before age and infirmity forced her down to the Valley. To me, it seemed like the middle of nowhere. Back then, perhaps it was. She had opened up the couch to make my bed, and had just turned out the lights. There was a big full moon shining through the window. “Justin,” she said, “Come here.” I got out of the sofa-bed and walked over to the window. She cranked it all the way open and said “Listen”. It was the first time I heard the coyotes singing.

posted by Justin on 08.10.04 at 07:31 PM


She sounds like she was a wonderful woman. I myself am very close to my Aunt Jewel.

Thank you. She was.

J. Case   ·  August 11, 2004 8:29 PM

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